They nurtured my love of words... and my desire - my need - to tell stories.
When I was 7, I got my first library card. It was pink and it had a little metal plate in the lower right corner. I had to sign my name on it, which proved I was old enough to visit the stacks and choose my own books.
And choose I did.
The library was the first place I was allowed to walk by myself. It seemed miles and miles away, though it was really only about a dozen city blocks. I went every week and I'd check out the maximum number of books, devouring them from Sunday to Friday, to return them on Saturday morning and start all over again.
I loved everything about the library. Everything. The quiet... the smell (oh, the wonderful smell!)... the rows and rows and rows of colorful book spines... the heavy oak tables and the chairs that scraped loudly across the floor when you pulled them out to settle in for a read... the card catalog.
In fact, I'm on the lookout for an old card catalog cabinet for my very own. Can you imagine?
The original search engine.
One of my favorite things, though, was to look at the due date cards in the books to see who might have checked them out before me... and when they checked them out before me. I loved the idea that other people - other girls my age - had been checking out the same books for years and years and years before me. I loved to think about how many hands had held the covers and turned the pages and how many people had absorbed the words and cried and laughed and waited breathlessly to see what would happen to characters - to the friends - who seemed so very real.
Libraries raised me.
The library was my haven. My happy place. The place that housed the worlds I dreamed of visiting, the people I dreamed of knowing, the adventures I dreamed of having.
I still visit the library, though not so often as I used to. I spend more time in bookstores now, as I like to own my books and not just borrow them. And when I purchase books that turn out not to be ones I want to keep, I donate them to the library. Giving back... in just a tiny way... for all they gave me... for all I gained and learned... for how I grew.
Libraries raised me.
And I wouldn't have had it any other way.